Being called a “tree hugger” makes a guy stop and think. At least it made me stop and think. It was said in jest and I got a laugh out of it for sure. I know where it came from too. Lately, I’ve been a little more vocal about something I care about – Wild fish species of the Pacific Northwest.
I took to the social networks to explain that I don’t think I fit the mold of tree hugger. For example, I have a house made almost entirely of wood. I know that all that wood came from trees. It isn’t created in a wood factory and trucked to the local Big Orange (that’s what my 5 year old daughter Hadlee calls Home Depot). My home is heated by a wood burning stove. I cut, split, stack and burn wood. Yup, wood that started as a living tree. I have family members that make their livings in the timber industry. I live near a town that would dry up and blow away if the lumber mills closed down. Cutting down trees and turning them into wood products is a huge contributor to the Pacific Northwest economy. I’m good with about 90% of what the timber industry does. Which is a lot more than I can say for some industries.
As I explained to an old friend on Facebook, I prefer the term “conservationist” over “tree hugger”. A Conservationist is defined as: a person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife. The only trees I hug are the ones within a couple hundred yards of a waterway. I say that because those are the trees that shade and cool the rivers, creeks and streams that wild and native fish live in. They also keep snow melt and rainwater runoff from filling the waters with silt and debris that chokes gravel beds where Salmon, Steelhead and Trout species spawn. My friend decided that I’m a “water lovin tree hugger”. Now that’s a label fits me just fine. Thanks Carl!
I’m thinking that my recent bout of outspokenness could be a mid-life crisis of sorts. With the big “5-0” sneaking up on me, I’m putting more thought into what I give and what I take from this world. It’s unlikely that I’ll grow my hair long and start wearing flip-flops year round. I won’t be joining any communes and dancing naked around bonfires. But I do plan to continue speaking out.
There are a lot of things wrong in this world: Domestic Violence, Cyber-Bullying, ISIS, Police Brutality, School Shootings, Drug Abuse. The list goes on and on. I feel pretty helpless to do anything about those issues. But I can have an influence on the state of Wild fish populations.
As a fishing guide, I have a captive audience and a pulpit to preach from for 8 hours every time I take clients fishing. The list of possible sermons in “my church” is long. Clean water, Good and Bad Logging practices, Hydro Power, Hatchery Fish, Offshore Aquaculture, Farm Runoff, Gill Netting, Use of Bait, Treble Hooks, Culverts, Water Pollution, Suction Dredging, etc. I don’t need to hold an advanced college degree or a political office to speak about those things. I live on the water and I see it with my own eyes. It’s pretty easy to point out as my congregation and I drift down the river.
I know that I will pay for my words. I will lose clients and likely have my tires slashed, windows broken or the side panels of my truck keyed at the boat launches. But fifty years from now when I’m dead and gone and someone asks my kids/grandkids what their dad/grandpa did, they can say I was a Water Lovin Tree Hugger! I’ll be proud of that. And maybe because I went out on a limb a ways and spoke my mind, there may still be a wild fish or two swimming in our rivers.
Keep ‘Em Wet!